[Marxism] Anarchists who helped kill Occupy worry anti-Trump activists

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Feb 6 20:33:48 MST 2017


SF Chronicle, Feb. 5 2017
Anarchists who helped kill Occupy worry anti-Trump activists
By Kevin Fagan and Michael Bodley

As Kathy Lipscomb watched TV newscasts of “black bloc” anarchists 
smashing windows at a UC Berkeley protest, the former organizer of 
Occupy demonstrations was obsessed by two thoughts.

The first, she said, was: “Oh no, not again.” The second: “We can’t let 
them help ruin things this time.”

Those sentiments echoed across the Bay Area as leaders of the current 
wave of protests against President Trump took heed of Wednesday’s campus 
violence, Trump’s subsequent threat to cut funding to UC Berkeley, and 
what all that portends for their movement.

Their biggest fear is a repeat of what happened to Occupy earlier this 
decade, when black bloc violence chased away nonviolent, mainstream 
protesters — and helped lead to Occupy’s collapse about five years ago.

“That stuff that happened at UC Berkeley with the black bloc was just 
nuts, doesn’t help,” said longtime protester Buck Bagot, who helped 
organize the Occupy movement in San Francisco and has been mobilizing 
demonstrations against Trump. “People need to make sure this incredibly 
negative, destructive element isn’t there in what we do this time.”

Activist  and community organizer, Buck Bagot at his home on Saturday 
04,  February 2017 in San Francisco, CA. (Peter DaSilva Special to the 
Chronicle) Photo: Peter DaSilva Photo: Peter DaSilva Activist and 
community organizer, Buck Bagot at his home on Saturday 04, February 
2017 in San Francisco, CA. (Peter DaSilva Special to the Chronicle)
Its adherents saw Occupy as a wake-up call against income inequality. 
But many of them say Occupy fell short of being more than that, partly 
because violent anarchists came to be the bandanna-obscured face of the 
movement to the broader public.

The day after Trump’s inauguration, the new president’s opponents staged 
peaceful Women’s Marches in cities across the country, many drawing tens 
of thousands of people. It was what Bagot and others envision as the 
building block of a sustained resistance to Trump on such issues as the 
rights of women, immigrants and poor people.

Black bloc protesters, however, have grabbed headlines at two protests. 
The first was on inauguration day, when a small cadre smashed windows 
and clashed with police in Washington.

The second was Wednesday night at UC Berkeley, where hundreds of 
demonstrators had gathered to protest the scheduled appearance of 
right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos. Dozens of black-clad 
anarchists marched into the middle of the peaceful rally, pulled rocks 
and bottle rockets from their backpacks, and flung them at police. They 
broke windows at the student union, then roamed around downtown, 
smashing glass doors and windows and scrawling graffiti on buildings.

It was hardly a surprise they got all the attention, including from 
Trump, who tweeted Friday that “professional anarchists, thugs and paid 
protesters are proving the point of the millions of people who voted to 
MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” He had earlier threatened to cut off federal 
funding to UC Berkeley — which responded that it had nothing to do with 
the violence.

It was all reminiscent of the charges that came to be leveled at Occupy. 
And just as they did during Occupy, the people whose actions prompted 
the reactions promised to keep at it.

As he hunkered down beneath a homemade shield to ward off rubber pellets 
being fired by police, one anarchist at the Berkeley protest, who 
declined to give his name, defended the tactics of his “resistance.” 
They’re permissible in the face of fascism, he said.

“Peaceful protests don’t work anymore,” said the man. “This is war.”

Companions unfurled a large banner that read, “Become ungovernable.”

Robin Averbeck, a community college professor, was at the Berkeley 
protest. She wore no hood over her head or bandanna on her face, but 
said she had been part of a crowd that overwhelmed security at 
Yiannopoulos’ scheduled appearance at UC Davis on Jan. 13, forcing its 
cancellation.

It’s crucial, she said, for protesters to use a “diversity of tactics” 
in “fighting fascism.”

The black bloc is not an organization. For the past 20 years it’s been 
called a “tactic” by anarchist extremists, and now it’s a broad term 
that encompasses people who believe that destruction is the best way to 
force home the point of protest against right-wing or even conventional 
politics.

Their tactics are pure confrontation: Dress in black, wear a mask, bring 
a backpack with hammers, rocks or incendiary devices, then charge 
through the peaceful crowd to smash windows and get in the face of police.

Participants never give their names to reporters who try, usually 
unsuccessfully, to interview them. During the Occupy protests, they 
often ran away or blended back into a crowd as quickly as possible to 
avoid arrest.

Their presence at UC Berkeley made for a nasty case of deja vu for the 
people who were committed to Occupy.

That movement faded to a whisper for several reasons, including its 
commitment to having no leaders and its disorganized cacophony of 
causes. But the destruction wrought by black bloc anarchists scared away 
nonviolent protesters and focused public attention on what amounted to a 
tiny sliver of protesters. And often, though they attacked banks and 
other big-corporation businesses the demonstrations were aimed at, black 
bloc vandals also damaged small shops whose owners agreed with the 
philosophy Occupy.

Some who tried to bring constructive change through Occupy remain 
rattled to this day.

“It got really nasty,” said one attorney who helped assemble Occupy in 
Oakland and didn’t want his name published for fear of reprisal. “My 
goal of Occupy was to raise awareness of our economic crisis of 
inequality, but it became clear to me that some people had other goals 
of violence. It was scary. A lot of my friends and other people dropped 
out because they were afraid.”

Lipscomb noted that black bloc was a small part of Wednesday’s crowd, 
adding, “I never like the press focusing on the violence, because that’s 
not the point of the protest.”

During the current movement, she said, “We are going to just have to ask 
them to leave. Take off your mask. We may need security of our own.”

Bagot has already recruited security volunteers for his protests against 
economic inequality in San Francisco, but the concern is also being felt 
by anti-Trump organizers in the suburbs.

Ellis Goldberg left the Occupy movement in disgust over the violence to 
organize the followup 99 Percent demonstrations. He helped plan a 
Women’s March in Walnut Creek on Jan. 21 and said he made sure to 
arrange for volunteer security, “because we want to show we are doing 
something positive and we’re not just a bunch of hooligans.”

The march drew several thousand people, and there was no vandalism.

“We have to remember what we are about this time as we oppose what Trump 
is doing,” Goldberg said. “We’re not just the fringe people, but the 
mainstream and everyone — soccer moms, workers of all kinds, people who 
have never done protest before.

“Those people Wednesday with black masks on? It’s crazy. Breaking 
windows and fighting with police is not what we’re about.”

Longtime East Bay activist Dan Martin, whose son attends UC Berkeley, 
said he didn’t go to Wednesday night’s protest and urged his son to stay 
away, too, fearing the event would turn ugly.

Martin said the Bay Area is in for “four years of protests,” and that 
there are right and wrong ways to conduct them. “I hope (police) come up 
with some successful tactics of how to deal with it,” he said. “It looks 
like it’s totally out of control.”

Martin said he had a “rougher background” than his family, and that he 
wouldn’t let anarchists keep him away from any and all protests. But he 
added, “I don’t expect my wife and kids to go out and get their heads 
beat in.”

Bagot said he’s confident that “something long-lasting will come of 
things this time.” But, he said, “That won’t happen if we let the 
craziest, most macho people mess it up like they did with Occupy.”




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